Substance over Style

It’s Day 17 in the Betfred World Snooker Championship.

K-001.pngThat means that, by the end of tonight (or into tomorrow morning!) we’ll know this year’s worthy champion at the Crucible in Sheffield.

The final’s opening day was a dramatic, tense affair which had people split down the middle in terms of their enjoyment.

It began in ominous fashion, with 2014 champion Mark Selby settling by far the better as he raced into a 6-0 lead over a hapless and helpless Ding Junhui.

Ding, who allowed the second frame to slip from his grasp despite his opponent at one point requiring snookers, appeared distraught with the weight of the world, or at least a huge nation, on his shoulders.

The emotional relief etched across his face when he potted the final blue in the seventh frame to finally get his name on the scoreboard was both heartwarming and wrenching at the same time.

This was a guy really being put through the ringer on his maiden bow in a world final.

However, the 29 year-old’s confidence steadily grew and, amid highly entertaining exchanges, by the mid-session interval of the evening session he was back to within only two frames at 7-5.

With a flurry of big breaks and an apparent mental walkabout suffered by Selby, the scores went to 8-7  in favour of the Englishman – but not without a whole heap of energy-sapping effort.

The 15th frame lasted more than an hour as Ding, punished for failing to pot an extra red down the cushion with the rest that would have put the frame beyond doubt, was forced to wait another 40-plus minutes in order to reduce the gap to one.

In that grueling period he won a frame, but he lost all the momentum and Selby, as he so often manages to do, limited the damage despite not producing his A-game.

With both men and a significant portion of the audience on the cusp of falling asleep, a hardened Selby won the last two frames for a potentially crucial three-frame overnight cushion.

The drawn out conclusion to the second session provided mixed opinions, with many waxing lyrical about the top-notch tactical duels, as opposed to the countless vocal others on social media who lambasted Selby in particular for his elongated approach.

While I do have a little sympathy with the naysayers, in reality you have a simple choice.

Choose to appreciate the finer details of a sport that is centred by the mind as much as the cue, or switch the channel.

The is the final of the World Championship, and lambasting Selby for very reasonably attempting to go for snookers or keeping it tight is unfair.

The 32 year-old is trying to win, desperately, and by any means necessary; that he is able to do so consistently as proven by his world no.1 ranking deserves at the very utmost some respect.

The outcome of today’s final is still relatively in the balance.

K-003.pngDing will surely be trying to open the game up a little more to allow his scoring, rather than Selby’s scouring, dictate the pace.

Realistically, the Chinese no.1 could do with winning the penultimate session of eight frames but a draw would still keep him well in the hunt going into tonight.

Whatever happens, one feels he mustn’t lose the session because if Selby opens up the lead any further then it’s effectively curtains.

Whoever emerges victorious will deserve it.

It doesn’t really matter what brand of snooker is played; getting to 18 is and always has been the primary objective.

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